September 14: Exaltation of the Holy Cross

September 14, 2023

Originally today’s celebration was for St. Helena’s finding of the Holy Cross on September 14, 320, and, at the same time, the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. This feast spread little by little in the West.

Much later, the celebration of the finding was moved on May 3rd and, on September 14, is celebrated Emperor Heraclius taking the Cross from the Persians and returning it to Jerusalem in 628. The Emperor himself handed over the holy relic to the Patriarch Zacharias on May 3, 630.

The object of the feast allows us to discern its deep meaning. It is the glorification of the Cross, sign of the Redemption.

The feast expresses the two currents of the liturgy very well: firstly, it considers in Christ the glorified Divine King; secondly, it presents Christ to us as a man with the cruel sufferings of his Passion.

We honor the Cross because we see in it the standard of the King, the tree of life, adorned with the King's purple, the balance of which was weighed as the price of Redemption, the memorial of the victory of Redemption triumphant; but it is also the patibulum [cross bar], the instrument of torture of the suffering Christ.

It is with emotion that the Church now celebrates, in autumn, this Feast of the Redemption. The Cross is “raised” against the darkness of the approaching winter, a symbol of the power of hell.

Finally, the Church wants to elevate “the sign of the Son of man,” which will appear at His second advent, during His glorious return. This is, moreover, the object of the liturgical texts of the last Sundays after Pentecost.